NC Budget and Tax Center, Trump Administration

816,000 NC kids would be left out of GOP tax bill’s Child Tax Credit proposal due to low income

House Republican leaders highlight an increase in the maximum value of the federal Child Tax Credit (CTC) as their tax bill’s signature benefit for working families, but the provision completely excludes 354,000 children in North Carolina whose parents work in low-paying jobs, according to a new report from the Washington, DC-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Another 462,000 North Carolinian children in low-income working families would receive less than the full $600 increase in the credit that would be available to higher income families.

Altogether, about 816,000 North Carolinian children in working families would either be excluded entirely or only partially benefit from the increase in the CTC. A larger share of North Carolinian children are excluded or only partially benefit than in the country as a whole.

Nationally, roughly 23 million children would be partially or entirely excluded from the House Republicans’ plan, even as it newly extends the CTC to families with incomes between $150,000 and $294,000. For example, a single mom of two working full time at the minimum wage would get no benefit from the CTC expansion under the House Republican plan while a married couple earning $230,000 would receive a new $3,200 benefit.

Republican Senate leaders have suggested that they may increase the CTC further when they release their tax bill this week. Unless they revise the proposal’s basic structure, however, it would provide far larger benefits to higher income families than to families that face difficulties affording the basics.

Analysis on the Children and Top Working Parent Occupations Affected

Analysis shows that of the roughly 23 million children across America that would be partially or fully excluded from the CTC increase:

  • 8 million are children under the age 6
  • 7 million are Latino children
  • 3 million are white children
  • 6 million are African American children
  • 600,000 are Asian children

According to the report:

“The average income of working families with children that would be partially or entirely left out of the CTC increase is $22,000.  Among these working families, two-thirds include at least one parent who works full time for most of the year.”

Analysis of available data shows that the top occupations of working parents fully or partially left out of CTC proposal in house tax bill are:

  • Office and administrative support
  • Sales
  • Food preparation and serving
  • Building and grounds cleaning and maintenance
  • Construction and extraction
  • Transportation and material moving
  • Manufacturing
  • Personal care and service
  • Health care support

Based on this latest report it is clear that rushing this tax legislation without real debate, without informed analysis, and without input from key stakeholders is not the way our Congress should operate.

Luis A. Toledo is a Public Policy Analyst for the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the North Carolina Justice Center.

News, Trump Administration

State, national educators say U.S. House tax plan would risk K-12 jobs, funding

School busesState and national education leaders say a U.S. House tax proposal to nix much of the state and local tax deduction (SALT) would “blow a hole” in public school funding from state and local governments.

Its just the latest criticism of ongoing tax wrangling in the nation’s capitol. Teachers are also fired up over a House proposal to do away with a $250 deduction for classroom supplies.

But K-12 leaders with the National Education Association (NEA) and the N.C. Association of Educators (NCAE) say Congressional Republicans’ SALT plan may put about 250,000 education jobs at risk across the country.

NEA’s state-by-state analysis of the SALT plan says that more than $5 million in revenue to support public schools would be jeopardized in North Carolina over the next 10 years, along with more than 6,000 educator jobs.

On Thursday, public school chiefs with the NEA and NCAE characterized the SALT proposal as a “$5 trillion tax plan giveaway to the wealthiest and corporations.”

From their statement:

“The Republican leadership’s tax plan is another example of misguided priorities in Washington,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “The plan is a tax giveaway to the wealthiest and corporations paid for on the backs of working people, students and educators.”

The NEA analysis also showed that nationally the bill would lead to cuts of approximately $250 billion in public education funding over the next 10 years. Corporations, by the way, get to keep their state and local tax deductions. A cut of this magnitude is akin to eliminating the Title I and IDEA special education programs overnight. If enacted, the elimination of state and local tax deduction could have a negative, ripple effect on states’ and local communities’ ability to fund public services such as public education. In North Carolina, that amounts to nearly $5 billion over ten years.

“Eliminating the state and local tax deduction would jeopardize the ability of our state and local governments to adequately fund public education,” said Mark Jewell, president of the North Carolina Association of Educators. “This will translate into cuts to public schools, lost jobs to educators, overcrowded classrooms that deprive students of one-on-one attention, and threats to public education.”

The impact of eliminating SALT on public education is nearly equal to the education jobs lost during the Great Recession. By most accounts, the country lost about 300,000 education jobs during that time. To cope with the economic crisis our country faced, schools made draconian cuts to public education funding that had a negative impact on students. In addition to losing teachers, school aides, and other key education support professionals, some school districts reduced the number of school days from five to four; critical education programs (before and after school programs, kindergarten) also took a hit. Class sizes ballooned.

The Republican leadership bill comes as the nation also faces a teacher shortage. At the start of the 2017-18 school year, every state in the country was facing a teacher shortage. In addition, according to the Washington Post, school districts also are struggling to fill positions in math, reading and English language arts, as well as finding substitute teachers.

“Instead of tax cuts for the wealthy, we must ensure that our students have caring, qualified, and committed educators in order to succeed. Now here come the tax cuts for the rich paid for by students and middle-class families,” said Jewell. “This bill is terrible for our state because it is a giveaway for the wealthy and corporations funded on the backs of our students and the middle class. We urge Congress to reject it.”

The criticism from public school leaders comes with U.S. Senate Republicans expected to announce their own tax plan in the coming days.

Environment, Trump Administration

EPA chief Scott Pruitt appoints Donald van der Vaart to revamped, anti-reg Science Advisory Board

Former  NC Secretary of the Environment Donald van der Vaart joins several anti-regulatory, pro-industry appointees to the EPA’s Science Advisory Board. (Photo: NC DEQ)

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt today is expected to appoint Donald van der Vaart, the former NC Secretary of the Environment, to a key panel charged with giving scientific advice to the agency’s leadership.

Van der Vaart is one of several new appointees to the EPA’s Scientific Advisory Board; nearly all Pruitt’s picks have a history of opposing environmental regulation or have worked for corporations that have been regulated by the EPA.

Earlier this year, Pruitt jettisoned members of the SAB — many of them respected scientists — arguing that anyone who has received EPA funding should be excluded from the board. But Pruitt’s justification — that funding recipients would have a conflict of interest — disguised his true intent: To pack the SAB with yesmen and yeswomen, with their own set of ethical conflicts, who would embrace the task of relaxing or eliminating environmental regulations.

The Washington Post reported yesterday that the appointees represent “voices from regulated industries, academics and environmental regulators from conservative states, and researchers who have a history of critiquing the science and economics underpinning tighter environmental regulations.”

Van der Vaart fills that bill. Last November, he wrote a letter to President-elect Trump, advocating for a dismantling of the EPA. As DEQ Secretary, Van der Vaart publicly announced that the agency would become more “business-friendly,” which translated into more lenient permitting and enforcement. He joined several states’ environmental departments in suing the EPA over the Clean Power Plan and the Waters of the US rule.

He now works in DEQ’s Division of Air Quality, where he demoted himself to avoid being fired by the incoming administration.

NC Budget and Tax Center, Trump Administration

As Congress rushes to pass tax legislation, consider the impact to NC’s state and local taxes

Congress is very close to giving a tax bill to President Trump by the holidays that would allow the wealthiest to pay less in taxes and result in a bad deal for everyone else.

As Congress rushes to make all of this happen, it is important to know that the tax framework released by President Trump and Republican leaders contains proposals that will not only put the federal budget on a path to higher deficits, but will also worsen the state’s fiscal health.

Here’s how: President Trump and congressional Republican leaders plan to end the federal deduction for state and local taxes (SALT). As researchers at the Center on Budget & Policy Priorities argue, the SALT deduction supports state and local budgets because it makes higher income filers, in particular, more willing to support increases in their state and local taxes because they can deduct it from their federal income tax return. Eliminating it would make it harder for North Carolinians to maintain funding for schools, roads, public safety, homeownership and other building blocks of thriving communities, at a time when the federal government would shift more of these investments to state and local governments to fund on their own. That is because the repeal of the SALT deduction is being done to pay for rate reductions that benefit the country’s wealthiest taxpayers.

In 2015, 1.2 million North Carolinians claimed SALT and the average value of the deduction was more than $9,500.

Concerns about ending SALT have been expressed by state and local government groups since the president and Congressional leaders presented their tax framework. For example, the National Association of Counties released a statement expressing major concerns:

“Counties are opposed to this $1.3 trillion federal money grab. Eliminating the SALT deduction would force undue burden upon the backs of middle-class homeowners in every state. Even if the standard deduction were doubled, middle-class homeowners would see their federal tax bills increase by an average of $815.”

Tax changes should not put at risk our state’s fiscal health and our nation’s. Instead, we should be pursuing the design of a tax code that can responsibly support the services that our communities need to thrive.

Luis A. Toledo is a Public Policy Analyst for the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the North Carolina Justice Center.

News, Trump Administration

Chalkbeat: Independent charters distance themselves from networks, Trump

President Trump and U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos

Despite a clear alliance between some of the U.S.’ largest charter networks and President Trump cohorts such as U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, independent charter companies are looking to separate themselves from the fray, Chalkbeat reports.

This week, the site covered a fascinating New York symposium that reportedly touched on, among other things, a divide in the nation’s growing charter movement between major networks and small, “mom-and-pop” charter operators.

From Chalkbeat:

Stand-alone charter schools say they’re often overlooked in favor of big-name networks like KIPP — while at the same time being unfairly tied to Betsy DeVos’s agenda.

At a symposium last week, a number of school leaders agreed to try to change that by launching a new national organization dedicated to independent, or “mom-and-pop,” charters.

“When people think of charters, they do not think of us,” said Steve Zimmerman, an organizer of the conference and founder of two independent charter schools.

In a hotel conference room in Queens, leaders from nearly 200 schools across 20 states unanimously called for the group’s creation. They also adopted a progressive manifesto that tried to separate the members from the Trump administration and common criticisms of the charter schools.

It marks yet another fissure in the nation’s charter school movement, which has seen political and philosophical divides open up in the wake of U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s appointment.

And while the loose group of independent charters does not yet have a name or a clear funding plan, its leaders believe they can provide a louder, more democratic voice for their concerns than existing charter advocacy groups, which they say are too focused on expanding networks.

“The National Alliance [for Public Charter Schools] truly believes they act in the interest of all charter schools. And to some degree they do,” said Zimmerman, referring to the country’s top national charter advocacy group. “The truth is, though, that they can’t really represent the real interests of independent charter schools because their funders really believe in the network model.”

National Alliance spokeswoman Vanessa Descalzi said the group supports independent charters.

“Advocating for independent, community-based schools is in the National Alliance’s DNA,” she said. “Where folks feel we could do more, we look forward to continued discussion and seeking solutions together.”

Zimmerman is the co-director of the Coalition of Community Charter Schools, an organization for independent charters based in New York City that co-sponsored last week’s conference. That symposium, he said, came out of a desire to shift the discussion around measuring schools away from just test scores.

“We felt that there was too much thinking of outcomes as being the bottom line of the enterprise … and that was keeping our schools from being innovative,” he said. “It felt like a zero sum pissing game of comparing test scores all the time.”

When the Trump administration took office, a new set of concerns arose for many leaders of schools like his. In Zimmerman’s telling, there was “too much coziness between major players in the charter world and the incoming administration.”

He declined to offer specifics. But Eva Moskowitz, the head of the Success Academy network in New York, met with Trump soon after he was elected, and the National Alliance initially praised a Trump budget proposal featuring deep cuts to education spending but an increase for charter schools. Both have since distanced themselves further from the administration.

“To have in any way the charter world associated with that felt that it was really going to hurt our message,” Zimmerman said.

Charter networks nationally and in North Carolina have embraced privatization in some cases. As Policy Watch has reported, school choice advocates connected to networks like TeamCFA, which operates 13 schools in North Carolina, led the push for state lawmakers to approve a controversial charter takeover of low-performing schools last year, a program that may open the door to private control of traditional public facilities.

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